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Acting School Monthly -- What Does Acting Have to Do With a Disco Ball?
July 14, 2011

What Does Acting Have to Do With a Disco Ball?


Here's the news from Acting School Stop, your one stop on the road to an acting career!

In this issue... An article with tips on how to find a character you don't feel connected to. If you're thinking of joining SAG, read on for our new information on how to get your SAG card and when is the right time to join.

1) Article of the Month - Breaking Into a Character You Don't Feel

Have you ever felt stuck with a character you just feel no connection to? If it's for a play or screen role, you may wonder how you ever got the job. If it's a character in a scene for acting class, you may have been dragging your feet to rehearse and just feel fake when you work on the scene.

Sometimes it's a quick fix. You just need to reread the material a few times and understand it better. But sometimes, you get it, but just don't feel it. You know when you feel a character has been written for you and you just have to play that part? Well, this is the exact opposite. You feel you have nothing in common with this person.


Everyone shares 99.9% of the same DNA. Characters in plays and movies may not have real DNA but it's our job to make them real and believable, so as an actor, it's important to remember you have everything you need to play a role within you.

We all have the potential for every experience and emotion. A movement teacher I had in acting school compared what each actor had inside them to a disco ball. We all have this myriad of different colors inside, all these different emotions. Prior experiences and relationships have made some of the mirrors bigger and some smaller, so we have emotions we connect with easier, but it's all there. We have the entire palette of color to draw from and experience any character ever imagined.

Another way to look at it is to imagine your "inner disco ball" as a myriad of tiny mirrors you hold up to the world. Hold it up to your character and see which parts of you become more dominant and which parts become less important. Building a character is a lot like making a cake. It's pretty much always the same ingredients with a different recipe. A little less of this, a little more of that… but you have all the ingredients you need.

When it comes to characters you don't connect to at all, you sometimes have to look long and hard to find that quality within yourself. Let's say you're playing a drug addict. You never took drugs or alcohol or had an addiction to anything. How can you find that uncontrollable need to have something so bad you feel you'll die if you don't get it? How can you faithfully portray what it's like to feel withdrawal when you've never experienced it?

Well, all you need is to find that feeling of craving within yourself, then you can grow from that. Have you ever been on a diet, craving food, or just felt starved or really thirsty? That's all you need to start with. Just explore how you felt and start making connections with what your character feels. Of course, it's not as strong, but once you have a seed to start with, your imagination and creativity will do the rest. Then you can immerse yourself in research, reading about addiction, listening to songs and browsing art on the subject. Now you have a connection to expand upon.

It's the same for positive experiences you may not feel connected to. For example, you may have to play a parent long before you have children. How do you make that relationship real? Well, the part of you that wants to protect and nurture doesn't appear magically the day you become a parent. It's already there. Maybe you can find it in a relationship with a younger sibling or friend you felt responsible for. There's many ways to connect to the same thing. You just have to find one.

Just knowing you have everything you need inside you to bring any character to life helps take the pressure off and make the whole process more fun and creative. After all, as Sean Penn, a great actor, puts it, "Your life is what you bring to any story. This is a life craft. It's "How do you feel? Who are you? What do you have to say?""

For more tips on how to build a character, see our character development page.

2) What's new on

SAG Membership
What are the Pros and Cons of joining the Screen Actors Guild. When is the right time to join?

How to Join SAG
What does it take to get your SAG card once you're ready to take that step forward in your acting career?

Arizona Acting Classes
If you live in Arizona, check out our new listings of Arizona acting classes and theater programs.

Acting Schools in Georgia
New listings of acting schools and acting classes in Georgia.

3) Best from the Blog

When Will Acting Agents Consider a Submission
When are you ready to send mailings out to agents?

Actor's Intensive
Acting coach Kirk Baltz teaches acting classes and workshops in Los Angeles.

The Hollywood Film & Acting Academy
A Hollywood acting school where students get an acting reel shot while they learn acting.

What kind of smile at an audition?
In your acting auditions article, you say to smile at the casting directors or whoever is in the room. What kind of smile is best?

What Do I Wear at Acting Auditions?
Should i dress up for an acting tryout? Should i do my hair different than i always do it?

Knowing your Lines on a Movie Set
Will someone ever get fired in a movie film if they keep forgetting their lines or emotions?

4) A word of inspiration

"You come from different parts of society, from different neighborhoods. The thing that leads you here, at this moment, is that you have talent. Take my word for it. The thing that makes you say, "I want to do something" – that is the beginning of talent." – Stella Adler, actress and teacher

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Good luck with your acting career!

Alex Swenson

Acting School

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